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There was extensive coverage about fat bikes in the media last year (it's hot) and there's a photograph of a person riding a fat bike towing a Christmas tree on the cover of this year's Patagonia Holiday Catalog. Fat bikes were recently dubbed the "Hummers of the two-wheelers' world" in the Wall Street Journal. These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure less than ten pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas from Vermont to Michigan and Arizona to California and Washington are now allowing fat bikes also called snow bikes to be used on their groomed trails and offering rental bikes, too.
Fat bikes are one of the fastest growing segments of the bicycle industry. They provide a great way for cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season. In eastern Washington's Methow Valley Sports Trails (MVSTA) the winter season can be longer than all other seasons combined and it was one of the first trail networks to embrace fat biking. They saw it as a new, exciting way to get outside and recreate and for the passionate XC skier interested in fitness, it provides another way to cross-train. Fat bike products are available from companies such as Surlybikes.com and Salsacycles.com and even the mainstream company Trekbikes.com among others.
According to a recent survey by the Cross County Ski Areas Association there are at least 28 of the XC ski areas, which now welcome fat bikes on their trails. Flagstaff Nordic Center outside of Flagstaff, AZ is running a snowmobile on 25 km of the snowshoe trails to accommodate fat bikes. The bikes ride much better on packed trails compared to riding on soft snow. Fat bikes can be rented at Flagstaff Nordic for $35 on weekends plus a $10 trail fee, and they offer a 40% discount on weekdays ($20) while charging a lower trail fee on weekdays ($7), too.
One avid snow biker describes the thrill of riding his fat bike in the winter as, "Riding on snow has been a great alternative to my other winter love…Nordic skiing. Hopping on the snow bike has been a great way to mix up the winter activities. There's an amazing sensation when you climb aboard a snow bike and find that you "can" ride where only skiers or snowmobilers had once been able to go!"
Fat bike trail offerings are assessed on a day-by-day, snow conditions, user compatibility basis. Information on the trails that are open to fat bikes is available daily on the MVSTA grooming report. Just like a skier, a valid MVSTA day pass will be required for snow bikes.
Fat bikes are available for rent ranging from $10 at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, Vermont to $20 during the week at Flagstaff Nordic reaching $75 a day at New World Sport, a Fort Collins, Colo, shop that sends riders to local packed snowshoe and XC ski trails. It's $55 at Village Sports Shop in Lyndonville, VT and they suggest rider use the bikes on the nearby Kingdom Trails, where there are bikes to rent, too. Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop, WA has a $35 half day rate or $55 for a full day. They have rental bikes at the store and on site near 5 km of trails at nearby Sun Mountain Lodge. Reservations are recommended for weekends and holidays. Methow Cycle and Sport will also provide rack adaptors for customers who wish to transport rental fat bikes to the riding area of their choice. Other XC ski areas that have fat bikes on location to rent include Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, Mich at $15 per hour and California areas with fat bikes include Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure and Royal Gorge where there are 10 km of trails available and rentals for $20 per hour.
As one might imagine the price for purchasing a fat bike ranges greatly from a low-end of $200 (at Walmart) to $2,000-6,000). Like any other equipment the low end is probably less reliable and the high end includes bells and whistles or are built with carbon fiber construction.
Fat bike riders are asked to follow a code of etiquette because they can damage trails groomed for classic and skate XC skiers. A typical list of XC ski area "conditions of use" include:
* Riders need to purchase a trail pass to use the area's trails and tell the ticket vendor that they are planning on fat biking.
* Trail access is dependent on conditions and they should check the daily grooming report for detailed trail access information.
* Purpose built snow bikes only! Both tires must be wider than 3.7" and tire pressure must be less than 10 psi, no exceptions!
* Bikes should yield to all other users. Stay to right side of trail at all times, stay out of the classic ski tracks, and give skate skiers a wide berth. * Stay off trails with more than 3" of new snow.
* If you are leaving a rut deeper than an inch, having a hard time riding in a straight line, or pushing your bike, the snow is too soft and you absolutely should not be biking on the trails.
* Be an ambassador for the sport – stay polite, educate other bikers, discourage bad behavior, follow the rules, and we'll all have a good time this winter.
* Stay on trails designated for Fat Biking.
Skijoring is a Norwegian word that means "skidriving." A team of one or more dogs pulls an xc skier and the skier "drives" or directs the team as he or she skis behind. In Scandinavia, skijoring has been done for centuries and it is gaining popularity in the US. It's easy to learn and can lead to magical winter days for you and your canine friend. Skijoring will help keep your dog fit and healthy and it can deepen and enhance the relationship that you have with your dog. Learning to work with your dog and become a team is a great reward that skijoring has to offer.
The human aspect of skijoring requires skiing ability, dog training, and handling skills. Any XC ski gear can be used for skijoring and classic or skating ski techniques can be used. The type of ski selected depends on the experience that your desire such as how fast you want to ski and how far you want to go. Expect that a fast running dog on a groomed ski trail will be very quick and skating might be the best choice.
If you are new to XC skiing, it is recommended that you take ski lessons and practice prior to trying skijoring with your dog. Ski ability requires that you are able to control your speed, stop, and keep balance. But as previously mentioned, skijoring is a team activity and you should expect to work as hard as your dog. It is not a FREE RIDE!
Dog training and handling skills are equally important so it is useful if you and your dog have participated in an obedience class together. Key elements include being positive, patient, and consistent. Positive reinforcement is important with any animal training and short easy sessions will yield great results. You want to feel successful and gain confidence together.
No matter the breed (above 30 pounds), dogs have a strong instinct to chase, run on a trail, or hunt as a pack. While sometimes this instinct can result in unwanted behavior, when carefully shaped and trained, it also enables your dog to pull. One of the easiest ways to teach your dog skijoring is hooking him/her up with an experienced skijoring or sled dog team. Another method that works is to have someone ski slightly in front of your dog and call it, while you let it pull you.
Some dogs may learn immediately and others may take a little more work and encouragement, but keep things in perspective.
Dogs need adequate water and it is recommended not to run them on a full stomach. They can overheat in warmer temperatures (above 40 degrees) and dogs with thin coats (such as pointers) can get too cold. You might consider dog booties for abrasive snow conditions (may take some getting used to) and for furry footed dogs, you should trim the hair on their paws or use oils (Musher's Secret) to prevent snowballs. If your dog is not regularly exercised, start with very short sessions and work up from there. Consult a veterinarian for advice about ideal running weight for the breed of dog that you own.
The gear for skijoring is lightweight and simple. Booties have already been mentioned and a harness is necessary to connect you with the dog. A webbed harness when pulled to complete length stretches from your dog's neck and chest to the base of his/her tail. A good fitting harness should allow a dog to run and pull efficiently and safely. It is best to have an experienced and knowledgeable skijorer help to fit your dog's first harness. A bungee lead (a leash with a bungee cord sewn inside of it) is useful to prevent jerking motions and ease the stress of pulling on your dog. You will also have a harness around your hips and legs and these come in a variety of styles that should fit so that you can move and ski efficiently. A safety release between your harness and the line connecting you to the dog is very important.
Communication and Sharing
When you are ready to go, with a friend in front to encourage your dog, let him/her start pulling and give the command "Let's Go!"
There are many commands you will learn as a skijorer such as "whoa" or stop, "on by" meaning leave that irresistible distraction alone and keep going, "gee" means go right and "haw" means go left. "Come around" means turn around. Taking a class in skijoring will help you get started the right way.
While on the trails with your dog please be aware of trail etiquette. Respect the guidelines at an xc ski area and stay on the dog-friendly trails that are specified. Loose dogs can be an annoyance and even a danger to both skiers and other dogs. Be aware of others on the trail.
Louisa Morrissey teaches skijoring clinics at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO on Jan 5, 19, and Feb 2 and 23 at 10 AM -12 PM. At Frisco Nordic Center has skijoring clinics in Frisco, CO on Jan 25 and Feb 8. Also private lessons with advance reservations are available through the Aspen Animal Shelter. For more info about her programs see www.highcountrydogs.com
Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO has combined with the town of Breckenridge in a public private partnership to develop a new 9,200 square foot log lodge on Peak 8, which will become the new base of the BNC operations by the beginning of January. Gene and Therese Dayton, long time proprietors at the center spoke with XCSkiResorts.com about the development sounding like proud parents of a beautiful new baby, "The new facility called the Oh, Be Joyful Log Lodge will house all of the Breckenridge Nordic Center operations including areas for lounging, a loft and mezzanine, space for retail and rental operations, a snowcat garage, a full basement, restrooms, and two employee units so the groomers can be on site for storms."
Therese Dayton said, "The lodge sits nestled beneath massive mountain peaks that are white capped year round. It is all brand new, but looks like an old National Park Lodge and it sits on the edge of the Town of Breckenridge's Cucumber Creek Preserve. The new location is teeming with wildlife and has an easy topography for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and XC skiing."
The Daytons described the construction project as a "labor of love." It began in October 2012 and the lumber was harvested from the Pine Beetle devastation in the area. The logs were milled and lathed at Dayton's local sawmill operation and the log peeling and staining were done by hand. The building will be energy efficient with foundation insulation panels and thick roof insulation to make the log structure more weatherproof. The construction also utilized 110 spruce trees that were felled during the Breckenridge Ski Area gondola project.
The new lodge has great vistas, trail access, interior space for retail and rental operations, as well as larger and more desirable restroom facilities. The log lodge has an Old World "Black Forest Nature" theme with wood carvings, and wildlife artwork featured throughout the spacious Grandview Room. The huge handcrafted Spruce and Douglas Fir log posts and truss beam structure overhead, reveals a wide open feel with the cedar branch loft railing on the mezzanine level, the Lodgepole Pine Beetle killed tongue and groove ceiling, Arkansas moss rock stone fireplace, Information Guest Services desk, and Supreme Gold granite Cafe Bar top all with comfy in-floor heat over Red Pine flooring at your feet.
The Daytons worked with 14 landowners and 7 homeowner associations in planning and the site is right on the local bus shuttle route. Landowners donated land for open space and recreation. The town also worked cooperatively grading the parking, which is paved with asphalt and lighted, with dense Spruce trees and Colorado native landscaping and wildflowers. Patrons can easily drive right up to the front door for a quick Skier Drop Off under the covered Porto Cochere that'll be especially nice for families with small children, elderly folks, and/or guests with disabilities.
The Savory Spoon Cafe & Wine Bar will be serving grab n' go food/drinks, as well as warm and hearty homemade soups/chili, fresh green salads with plenty of toppings, and hot grilled sandwiches, and more. Seating will be available on the warm fireplace hearth, in the lounge dinning room, or outdoors at the South Cafe table or on the West Grandview Patio.
The town granted access to the adjacent property in the Cucumber Gulch Preserve, where the historic Joses mining cabin is located and the wildlife is plentiful. The Breckenridge region is known for the 13 pound, 7 ounce gold nugget that was found in 1887 by Tom Graves, who nuzzled it like a baby to keep people from discovering it. "Tom's Baby" as it is known is still on display at the Colorado Museum of Natural History in Denver.
The lodge is at 9,800 foot elevation and it has window views of the Ten Mile Range and Breckenridge's Peaks 6 and 7. For local XC skiers and those traveling to Breckenridge as a destination, there are 30 kilometers of groomed ski trails and there are also 18 kilometers dedicated for snowshoers. In the summer, the lodge will host nature programs, weddings, and other events. Connected to US Forest Service land, the Breckenridge Ski Area, and Summit County land the facility is adjacent to endless trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. As a year round recreational facility, the Oh, Be Joyful Log Lodge will put Breckenridge on the map to become a mecca for XC skiers and snowshoers.
Kids on cross country skis or snowshoes - it is not only about child obesity, nature deficit disorder, and better brain function – it's about fun. What can the kids do after school or on the weekends? Have you set your plans for the school breaks this coming winter? The winter can be snowy yet mild and great for a weekly program or a family winter vacation with plenty of cross country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing, so gather up the kids and head to the hills. There are XC ski areas that are exceedingly kid-friendly with fun activities to enjoy on the snow. XC skiing and snowshoeing not only delivers great times for kids, they create memories for a lifetime.
We know about the calorie-burning effectiveness of XC skiing and snowshoeing. We understand that kids should get outdoors more often. And according to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore, studies support the idea that exercise can improve learning efficiency for kids. In short, exercise and better fitness are associated with better brain function all year long, so here are some samples of the unique XC ski and snowshoe programming this winter:
In Gorham, NH, Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center has the Trail Tracker program for an everyday scavenger hunt at Great Glen, which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creatures, they stamp a card and upon return to the lodge they get a treat. The TC Bank Kids SkiFest on Jan 12 has an obstacle course, lollipop race, mini lessons for first timers, treats, free XC ski rentals and special trail rates.
Jackson Ski Touring nestled in New Hampshire's White Mountains, has the Story Land Element Garden, a small terrain park at the Touring Center designed for young children. Kids are also encouraged to ski or snowshoe to a 3-kilometer destination to the Ellis River Warming Cabin, which is open on weekends. Reach the cabin and enjoy a chocolate covered waffle on a stick treat.
Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, NY has a 6-week kids XC ski program (1.5 hours on Sundays) that is available to individual kids or organized group programs for fun, exploration, and adventure learning skills on ski and games on XC skis with a hot coco/snack break, soccer on skis, tree ID game, and more.
The Snow School program has snowshoeing for kids in more than 40 locations across the nation such as Cable Natural History Museum in Cable, WI and Michigan Tech University, which coordinates snowshoe programs for 3-8th graders in 20 school districts in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Some of these programs include games, ecology, wildlife tracking, outdoor skills and more. Go to the Winter Wildlands website or Facebook page for a list of Snow School locations.
The Loppet Nordic Ski Foundation runs one of the largest introductory kids cross country ski programs of its kind in the country at the Theodore Wirth Park, just minutes from downtown Minneapolis, MN. Some 600 kids from local elementary and middle schools learn to ski each year through the Foundation's programs. They also are given info about fitness and nutrition. A small trail is groomed at each school, so that the kids can ski right out the door in their physical education classes.
Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO has one of the best equipment exchange programs for kids whereby there is no charge for kids to trade in their old equipment for similar equipment in bigger sizes.
The Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, MT has the Adventures in Winter Ecology ski program for school groups starting with fun games on skis, a snack break and then smaller tour groups go out for grade-specific hands-on field exploration science curriculum meeting at a trail shelter for lunch with classmates.
The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association in Winthrop, WA has three storybook trails that feature 1 km loops that have sign-sized illustrated story book pages on panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe. And the trails are free for kids under the age of 17!
The Strider Glider program at Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure in California runs both midweek and weekends. This program includes games, destination skiing, skill building, striding, skating, racing, etc. The weekend program allows local kids to befriend and ski with weekenders that they would not see with just a midweek only program.
A number of states conduct statewide programs to encourage kids to get outdoors in the winter. The Vermont 5th Grade Passport offers a booklet of coupons for free trail passes at more than 30 XC ski resorts. An adult paying full price must accompany the kids and there is a small $10 cost associated with the passport, which is good from December through May excluding holiday blackout dates.
Also in VT, the Bolton Valley Nordic Center's kids program focuses on the development of basic Nordic skiing skills as well as natural science and natural history and each of the kids' ski skills are practiced with fun games like ski soccer, tag, obstacle courses and snowball biathlon.
These winter programs feature ways for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis or snowshoes. And they're committed to helping kids develop lifelong habits of health, education, and physical fitness through participation in outdoor winter activities…and as the kids can attest they are also just plain fun.
The Yosemite National Park Rim Fire is claimed to be the third largest fire in California history impacting a 300 square mile area, costing more than $100 million, and requiring more than 5,000 firefighters to combat. The unhealthy air warnings impacted the Central Sierra region, home of Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure on 3,000 acres in Bear Valley, Cal. where proprietors Paul and Dianne Petersen spoke with XCSkiResorts.com about fire's repercussions.
"There are air monitoring devices to report the air quality index (airnow.gov)and we've been told to stay indoors on most days in the last few weeks. Bear Valley is about 30 miles north of the fires. We've lost the precious Labor Day weekend and additional end-of-season business with lost kayak and mountain bike rentals and we also have been delayed in our trail development and maintenance at the center as the air was too unhealthy to be working outdoors. The prevailing winds have brought Rim Fire smoke through our area and north to Tahoe and Reno. This smoke effect may have caused economic hit to the region in the billions."
The Yosemite National Park website informed visitors that they "should expect periods of smoky conditions depending on winds and fire behavior." Regional news stated that the fire erupted in the Stanislaw National Forest and that 111 buildings have been destroyed including four homes and three businesses, while six people have been injured. Additionally, a state of emergency has been announced in San Francisco, which gets its water from inside the park.
Regional stories are now reporting that the environmental damage of the Yosemite Rim Fire is being assessed with mitigation expected to cost in the tens of millions. Ways are being sought to protect habitats and waterways as the fall rainy season fast approaches.
"The last three days have been mostly clear of smoke at the 7,000 foot level here in Bear Valley. I think this is the worst fire the mighty Sierra Nevada range has endured in known history. It could have been much worse. No human lives were lost and our business interruption pales in comparison to the beautiful terrain in and outside of Yosemite that has been scorched. Winter is coming and that will put the last of this beast of a fire out."
The SIA/Physical Activity Council 2013 Participation Study recently published by Snowsports Industries America (SIA) gives a clear picture of the cross country ski population in the USA. In a nationwide survey conducted with more than 40,000 people it was projected that there were 3,307,000 cross country skiers in 2012-13 (winter season). This was the second consecutive decline of the cross country ski population, with a decrease of 23% from the previous year. Other 2013 snow sport populations were: alpine = 8,243,000; snowboard = 7,351,000; snowshoe = 4,029,000.
The age group information of snowshoers showed 33% under 24, 42% in the 25-44 age group, and 20% in the 45-64 age group, while 5% were aged 65 and above
The gender of cross county skiers in 2013 according to the survey was 60-40 percent male-female as the percentage of female participation has declined over the last few years. Other demographic information included that 49% of cross country skiers had a household income above $75,000 annually and 59% had an educational level of a bachelor degree or higher.
The survey projections divided cross country skiers in the USA by geographic region. There was 15.9% of cross country skiers in the Pacific states, 18.2% in the MidAtlantic (NJ, NY, PA) region and 10.4% in the Mountain region. The North Central region remained the largest representation of the cross country skier population with 26.7% and 8.7% of them were in New England. The remaining 20% of cross country skiers were in the 17 states of South Atlantic and South Central regions.
The average retail prices for cross country skis in 2012-13 in specialty stores was $170.43 per pair of skis and $119.37 per pair of cross country ski boots.
Cross participation in other forms of recreation showed that 49.3% of cross country skiers enjoyed walking for fitness and 43.4% were also into hiking. 42.9% of cross country skiers are runners or joggers and 38.7% go bicycling on roads or paved surfaces while 34.5% of cross country skiers also snowshoe. 45.8% of cross country skiers also alpine ski.
The Participation Study looked at ethnic demographics and cross country skiing's largest group of participants are Caucasian 69.5%. The other groups amidst cross country skiing included 13% African American, 4.9% Hispanic, and 5.3% Asian or Pacific Islander.
When asked about where cross country skiers ski, 37% responded that they go to public ski centers, 35% went to private ski centers, 20% skied in the backcountry, and 8% said they skied in other non-groomed terrain. It would be assumed that many cross country skiers visit all the different venues during the winter and it is unknown whether cross country skiers understand the terms with regard to public and private ski facilities. For example, is a ski area that is owned and operated by a non-profit organization considered a public or private ski center?
The average number of days cross country skiers participated in 2012-13 was 9.4 days. Having someone to go with was the most significant factor that encouraged participants to go cross country skiing (61.9%). Other encouraging factors had similar statistics in the mid-to-high twenty percentages including being able to go cross country ski locally, getting a lesson, having new equipment, being in better health, having more vacation time, and fewer work commitments. Can more people overcome these obstacles to become cross country skiers? Thanks to Kelly Davis, SIA Director of Research for sharing the study findings with XCSkiResorts.com.
Nordic snow pros or ski instructors teach the sport for the same reason to celebrate the community and culture of the sport and to share that experience with as many people as possible. Professional ski and snowboard instructors come in all shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds. There are part-time and full-time instructors while some prefer teaching beginners, or kids, because they enjoy introducing new people to the sport, others are coaching competitive athletes at the highest level.
PSIA-AASI is the national organization in the USA that offers professional certification and certificate programs for those instructors looking to gain peer-reviewed recognition of their skills and knowledge. PSIA-AASI develops national certification standards with the industry partners that provide the foundation for these credentialing programs. The organization is comprised of regional divisions. As of the end of June 2013 there were 893 certified PSIA-AASI instructors for cross country skiing and 1,801 certified instructors for telemark skiing (usually done at alpine ski areas). Canada has the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI), a similar organization had 781 members in 2012-2013 including 583 xc ski instructors and 236 telemark ski instructors (some members have both certifications). These professional organizations are endorsed by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association and its president Chris Frado, commented, "For the best ski experience possible, take a lesson with a certified ski instructor."
The current PSIA-AASI education/certification standards provide a training focus and represent a minimum competency for each level of certification. There are specific PSIA-AASI manuals about teaching cross country skiing and telemark skiing. CANSI has four certification levels in xc and three in telemark. Certification courses are organized and run by six different regions across Canada, following standards established by the National Technical Committee. Besides regular professional development days, CANSI members have access to a variety of technical material such as a very detailed and comprehensive Instructor Manual, newsletters and videos. Professional members also benefit from a liability insurance coverage when teaching, and enjoy discounts with several industry-leading equipment suppliers.
From professional development to expanding your abilities to share the ski experience with others, to making lifelong friends and memories, PSIA-AASI is devoted to helping you make your time as an instructor as rewarding as possible. PSIA-AASI membership consists of both registered and certified members. Once you join the Association you become a registered member. When you take and pass your Level I, Level II or Level III certification exams, you become a certified member or instructor.
PSIA-AASI provides much more than just a membership; it provides a connection to people who are excited about skiing and sharing that passion with others. And, it provides a connection to sliding on snow that has the power to change lives.
The organization has more than 31,000 total members, hundreds of discount products from official suppliers and the PSIA-AASI Accessories Catalog available to members at a discount. Other membership benefits include attending clinics, attaining nationally recognized certification, online teaching resources and printed technical manuals, PSIA-AASI's magazine 32 Degrees, discounts on products from official suppliers, instructional aid products, and liability insurance coverage.
The costs associated with becoming a certified PSIA-AASI Nordic instructor are about $150 for attending a 2-day event in one of the regions where you would learn the particulars of teaching (covering material in the Nordic ski instruction manual) and $127 annual dues. For example, the PSIA-AASI events in 2012-13 sanctioned by the Eastern Division were held at 13 ski areas in six different states across the region during the winter (3 in VT, 3 in NH, 3 in NY, 2 in ME, 1 in MA, 1 in WV). Attending courses for CANSI can cost $250-300 but this includes the first year of annual membership, which costs $70 per year. If you're interested in sharing the passion of cross country skiing and becoming a certified instructor, contact www.thesnowpros.org or in Canada www.cansi.ca/en/ to find your respective division.
Skiers visiting a commercial cross country ski resort can feel comfortable knowing that if they get injured there is most likely a ski patroller on site during their visit. But who are these patrollers?
Since 1938 the National Ski Patrol (NSP) has served the public and outdoor recreation industry providing education and credentials for emergency care and safety service. The NSP has had a Nordic division since the early 1970s, and these Nordic patrollers provide venue coverage at Nordic ski resorts, services to backcountry enthusiasts by interfacing with the National Forest Service and different park agencies, and can be an integral aspect of local search and rescue groups.
The diverse nature of the Nordic classification lends itself to be a unique program within the NSP. These patrollers who work at ski resorts, in the backcountry, and at alpine ski areas use a variety of equipment types, and know the extended patient care knowledge required and the needed backcountry survival skills. This all contributes to defining what Nordic patrollers do.
Nordic Patrollers are educated with a comprehensive manual and Nordic ski enhancement seminars offered by NSP regional divisions. These are effective tools to build strong confidence and proficiency on the trails. The NSP is standardizing the program throughout the divisions, so the same tools are applied for patrollers to succeed and a quality assurance plan is being put in place to ensure that the NSP members meet high standards.
Mountain Travel and Rescue (MTR) courses provide a variety of skills, including nutrition and how the body performs in a wilderness environment, weather patterns, survival skills, working with group dynamics, an introduction to search and rescue, rope rescue skills, improvised toboggan construction, and land navigation with map, compass, and GPS. The MTR courses are taught in classroom and field sessions including mock scenarios to ensure the attendees can apply what they have learned to real life situations.
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast looking to expand survival and travel skills in the backcountry environment or a ski patroller preparing for one of the worst possible scenarios a parent can face at a ski area (a lost child), the NSP has a range of training. NSP also covers fundamental principles of avalanche hazard and work with mountain search and rescue groups. Patrollers who operate/recreate in areas that lack appreciable avalanche terrain are trained in navigation, emergency rescue, and even survival skills.
Can there be a more rewarding role on the snow than to help someone in need? To find out more about training programs, membership benefits, regional programs, and credential requirements at the National Ski Patrol, click http://www.nsp.org/about/joiningnsp.aspx
Among some women, the "Girls' Getaway" weekend or program has become an annual tradition where small or extended groups of women, ladies, girls, mothers, daughters, or friends organize a get together unaccompanied by (one might even say unburdened by) or exclusive of men, boys, brothers, and fathers. The motivation and/or common denominator is about connecting.
A girls' weekend might include recreating or relaxing together, enjoying good food and good wine, and a host of other activities that provide the backdrop for engagement and lasting memories. XCSkiResorts.com has found a list of women's programs for the upcoming winter 2013-14 ranging from once-a-week group outings to week-long all inclusive packages.
The Lapland Ladies Love to Ski is an instructional cross country ski program that runs 3 times a winter and has been ongoing for about 10 years. It is designed for women and taught by women at Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY. Female participants, who are beginner or intermediate level skiers, register for the program for a one-time activity or for all 3 outings. They are grouped to learn and practice ski techniques and they all have lunch together followed by a presentation about cross country ski equipment, clothing, and other topics. After lunch the group is self-divided into smaller groups for a social ski tour out in different directions on the trails and then back in the lodge for a hot beverage and a chocolate goodie at the end of the day. Classic skiing on Jan 11 & Feb 8; Skate skiing on Mar 1. The $40 price includes the trail pass, lunch, and discount coupons to use in the ski shop.
The Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat, CO has the Share & Save (starts at $335 per night with a 3 night minimum) program offer during certain times in the season. There are three meals a day, cross country ski instruction, guided backcountry ski tours, equipment to use, cooking classes, wine tasting, sleigh rides, horseback riding, photography workshops, and evening entertainment. Such a package includes transportation from the airport to the resort and there are many extras offered to extend the memories such as dogsledding, alpine skiing, massage, and premium wines at an additional price
Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA has the Women's Ski & Yoga Retreat on Feb 28 & Mar 2 with yoga, meals, ski sessions, and relaxation.
Lutsen Resort in MN has the Girlfriends Getaway Package for anytime of year with a bottle of champagne, breakfast, dinner, a spa treatment, guided tour with complimentary XC ski or snowshoe gear (or hiking, biking, or sea kayaking in the warmer months) and galleries and shopping in nearby Grand Marais. Photo: On the lake shore in winter at Lutsen Resort.
Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN has the Women's Wellness Retreat, which includes getting outdoors in nature for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, healthy meals, and massage. A number of girls' getaways at Maplelag are organized by patrons, who have visited the resort with their families and then return another time with other women to enjoy a variety of activities such as quilting, knitting, book discussions, board games, and so on. The family style meals at Maplelag make it easy for the groups to engage and there's the added bonus that none of the gals have to cook during the weekends, either.
Larger participatory women's programs include the Inga Lama Women's Weekend held at Minocqua Winter Park in Minocqua, WI on January 11 for a celebration of women at a winter evening of moonlight skiing with wine and snacks back at the Chalet. The next morning there's a ski or snowshoe tour with breakfast at the Tea House followed by more socializing and fun.
Steamboat Touring Center has the Colorado Ski for Women program on January 26 and the Catamount Trail Association runs the Ladies Nordic Ski Expo at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT on January 11. The New England Women's XC Ski Day is scheduled at Bethel Inn Resort in Bethel, ME on February 9 with gear demo, lunch, prizes, gear demo, and wrap up party.
One multi-year women's weekend participant jokingly cited "verbal profuseness" as the prime characteristic of her getaway experience with female friends. Such getaways may have a distinct purpose such as high performance fitness exercise or healthy wellness activities or they could incorporate different themes, but it is the composition of the group, which determines the vibe for the weekend. Check the XCSkiResorts.com Women's Event Page for a comprehensive list of this winter's women's programs.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO announced plans to build the new 50,000 square-foot High Lonesome Lodge and adjoining facilities to accommodate and host up to 350 guests on a hillside overlooking the Ranch. The lodge will have 31 rooms and 4 suites offering a variety of amenities such as adjoining rooms, spacious bathrooms with low-flow fixtures, vaulted wood ceilings with beetle kill finishes, stone fireplaces in select rooms and suites, and exterior porches with east-facing views of the Continental Divide. A 40-seat Wine Grotto will be situated into the lower hillside featuring an arched ceiling and wine barrels in the entryway including showroom-style planning and pre-event space.
The High Lonesome Barn will be a 4,200 sq. ft. reclaimed Civil War-era barn for groups, meetings, special events, weddings, and bridal parties that can accommodate up to 350 people. A main feature will be a wall of windows offering unparalleled views of the Continental Divide and Ranch Creek Valley. A Hay Loft in the Barn will provide multi-function capabilities for receptions, reading lounge and smaller meetings. There’ll also be the South Terrace for outdoor receptions and a landscaped “amphitheater” below for outdoor weddings.
The High Lonesome Pavilion will be a 3,000 sq. ft. outdoor events Pavilion for comfortable al fresco dining from Spring until Fall on the hillside just north of the High Lonesome Lodge that is also outfitted with fire pit for tubing hill participants, Nordic skiers, and snowshoers.
The High Lonesome Lodge’s exterior will match the dark brown color of the existing main lodge at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, with reclaimed rock covering the foundation and chimneys. Large windows are designed to allow for as much natural light as well as views for guests, and locally made iron railings and native landscaping keep a low carbon footprint and pay tribute to the Ranch’s history, often referred to as "parkitecture." The decor will be of a similar style to the rest of the Ranch’s interiors - luxurious yet unpretentious and with whimsical touches that include western and folk art, European antiques, and leather sofas. The suites and some of the guest rooms will also have fireplaces. All of the guest rooms and suites will have scenic views of the property that overlook the meadow and the signature 300 foot “Devil’s Thumb,” a rock outcropping that sits on the Continental Divide for which the Ranch was named.
The Ranch will continue its established recycling programs and continues to use the beetle kill wood and other reclaimed products in all the facilities’ construction. The Ranch also features geo-thermal radiant heating, low voltage lighting, recycled pavement, sand water filtration system and is committed to sourcing sustainably farmed food, including raising its own 100 percent purebred Wagyu beef, and other products and services locally as much as possible.
The construction is slated to be completed in the fall of 2013. Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa is already one of the leading premium resorts for cross country skiers in the world and the expansion will extend the opportunities for more people to enjoy the facilities and the surrounding land.
Cross country (xc) skiing is a sport with a very low incidence of injuries for a number of reasons including the low impact nature of xc skiing, low sliding speed, and free heel allows twisting if you fall (the ski boot is connected to the ski binding only at the toe and the heel is free), but there may be some injuries during the ski season in falls or by aggravating pre-existing conditions. Like the Maytag repairman, ski patrollers at xc ski areas are not busiest employees at the xc ski area because they do not have to address many serious skier injuries.
According to Sophia Sauter, a registered physiotherapist, who authored an article in "Active Life Physiotherapy" about 75% of injuries sustained by xc skiers are a result of overuse due to the repetitive nature of skiing, while the remaining 25% are a result of trauma. The following outlines some common injuries and appropriate treatment.
Traumatic xc ski injuries (25%), for example include ankle sprains, thumb sprains, knee ligament sprains, groin muscle strains, and wrist sprains. Upper body injuries are often the result of falling down but since xc skiing speeds tend to be somewhat slow, the impacts are often less severe than impacts at much higher speeds. The recommended treatment for the traumatic injuries is RICE: Relative rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Then, slowly restore range of motion, strength, proprioception (such as the ability to drive using brake, accelerator, and steering wheel without looking at your arms and legs), and power. It's suggested to see a physiotherapist to obtain a proper diagnosis and set of rehabilitative exercises.
Overuse injuries (75%) from xc skiing, for example could include knee pain, compartment syndrome on shins, Achilles tendon problems, rotator cuff and shoulder problems, and low back pain. The recommended treatment for these problems is a bit different. In these cases it's important to correct muscle imbalance (e.g. tight/weak), equipment faults, and possible training errors. Seek medical advice from a physiotherapist or other qualified health professional specializing in injuries common to xc skiers. Most people skip the warm up or preparing for recreational activity altogether, but the best way to avoid injury is prevention. This means utilizing appropriate training progressions, maintaining physical strength, balance, flexibility, adopting appropriate recovery techniques, and treating any lingering individual alignment problems, weaknesses, and imbalances. It makes sense to warm up before hitting the trails. The physiotherapist suggests a full body analysis with a professional to identify individual mechanical inadequacies. Also consider an athlete specific core stability and functional strength program. Popular core-strengthening strategies might include yoga, Pilates, and a regular fitness regimen.
Think about dealing with your injuries before going out on the trails and you can start your next season off right!
The 200 km trail network at the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA) amidst the Cascade Mountains in and around the town of Winthrop in eastern Washington offered one of the most liberal age policies in the nation last winter. The ski area gave a free cross country ski or snowshoe trail pass to kids 17 and under. Such "Kids Ski Free" trail fee policies for children are typically for kids under 6 at XC ski areas, but the MVSTA staff saw extending the age as a way to make it easy for families with young or teenaged children to decide to come and XC ski.
"Our goals were to target families and try to make cross country skiing more accessible to the next generation of skiers," the association's Executive Director James DeSalvo said. "Conceptually the idea was inspired by data that shows the child obesity epidemic in the USA and the positive impact of getting kids active outdoors."
The MVSTA underwent a rigorous revision of its master plan leading to the "Kids Ski Free" program among other decisions. They were prepared to take a short term financial loss to ensure longer term financial stability by investing in future customers. The intention was to expose kids to a great family experience and hope that they would come back into adulthood or with their kids.
The MVSTA was surprised to find that the incentive helped contribute to an overall increase in skier days even in the short term. In the initial year of the "Kids Ski Free" program kids' ski visits were up 141 percent and total paid skier days (not including kids) were up 10 percent from the prior year, which was a record. It is amazing to learn that this occurred while there were 29 fewer ski days last winter compared to the previous year.
Some of the young skier focus includes a cross country ski terrain park for kids at the Town Trailhead and there are three ski loops that have illustrated story book pages on panels displayed along select trails.
Families were targeted with the Kids Ski Free campaign on all MVSTA social media outlets, press releases, trail maps, and websites. They also discussed the program with local businesses to explain their intentions early on. There are local lodging and retailer companion deals to the free trail passes and they are working directly with local businesses and organizations to offer more direct deals and discounts for this upcoming year.
"My dream is that the cross county ski industry would jump in and all ski areas would offer the same benefit for kids across the country. The timing is right for some sport/industry to take up the cause of kids' health and I believe we are poised to do it," DeSalvo said.
Ask the general public to name an alpine skiing “Mecca” — described as a location where people, who share a common interest, yearn to go — even those who don’t ski can come up with at least Aspen or Vail, if not Killington and Sun Valley. But mention the Gunflint Trail or the Methow Valley to cross country (xc) skiers and more often than not, you’ll elicit a blank stare. Yet these are just two of several xc skiing destination resorts that devout xc skiers revere. In fact, each of the following five regions is definitely an “xc skiing Mecca” — each one, a destination that all traveling xc skiers have put on their “must visit” list.
Comprising the small, picturesque towns of Conway, Sugar Hill, Bartlett and Jackson in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the Mount Washington Valley has a half-dozen xc ski areas, all at the base of the most majestic mountain in the eastern U.S., the 6,288-foot Mt. Washington. Here, the spectacular scenery is enhanced by hundreds of inns, lodges and restaurants, plus unsurpassed outlet shopping. Ski past mountain streams, a white steepled church, or over a wooden covered bridge on the network of 150 kilometers (km) of trails that glide past numerous inns and stores and through the woods in Jackson Village.
Up in Pinkham Notch, Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center features 40 km of trails for cross country or snowshoeing and the more adventurous can take a snowcoach up the Mt. Washington Toll Road to unparalleled views and then make the choice to ski, snowshoe or ride the coach down. On the other side of Mt. Washington, Bretton Woods Nordic Center has its Mountain Road Trail, a 7-km downhill thrill that might be the most fun to be had on xc skis in all of New England. Franconia Inn is tucked away but is known for great cuisine in the evening and more than 50 km of trails. The region also has dog sledding, snowmobiling, zip lines, and 7 alpine ski areas to round out the snow sports offerings.
The Hills are Alive
The “Sound of Music” is more than 40 years old and another production by the Von Trapp family, America’s first xc ski center at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont is just two years younger. Nestled beside Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak, the lodge is among the most famous and diverse xc ski trail networks in the country. Three Stowe xc ski areas interconnect to provide roughly 150 kilometers of groomed trails, and there’s a link to backcountry ski 14 km to Bolton Valley Nordic Center via the Catamount Trail. Plus, with the variety of trails for snowshoeing around Stowe, it’s no surprise that the quintessential New England village is the original home of Tubbs Snowshoes, the largest snowshoe manufacturer in the world. Stowe's Recreation Path, which runs 5.3 miles along the river (and over 11 wooden bridges) and Route 108 is perfect for an easy snowshoe jaunt. Don't miss the Vermont Ski Museum with its Nordic Exhibit in downtown Stowe or the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream headquarters (most popular attraction in the state) in nearby Waterbury, Vt.
Scandinavians settled by the thousands in Minnesota so it stands to reason that their national sport, cross country skiing, would abound in the state. The Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota near Grand Marais offers more than 200 kilometers of groomed trails in the Laurentian Highlands adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Here, xc skiers enjoy moose yards, overlook ridges, old trapper trails and railroad beds. The Gunflint attractions include extensive stands of white birch, spruce, and aspen and spectacular cliffs.
Of course, in the land of 10,000 lakes there’s a multitude of frozen lakes and there is also a great chance that Gunflint Trail visitors will see the oscillating luminary curtains in the evening sky known as the Northern Lights. Perfect for those wanting to get away from it all, this area is less populated than other xc Meccas and the region is sprinkled with many isolated lodges, bed and breakfast inns, lakefront cabins, and yurts (large circular heated tents with hard floors, bunk beds and room for 6-8 people). And count on hearing the distant howls of timber wolves.
More than 70 years as a winter sports destination, the Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, area was developed by railroad mogul, W. Averell Harriman to attract train travelers. Known for its alpine skiing, the area features more than 160 kilometers of trails and now it touts itself as "Nordic Town USA." The North Valley Trails run from the Galena Lodge back to town along the river and are run by the Blaine County Recreation District. Expect to see colorful performance striders and skaters alongside snowshoers out walking the dog on this popular avenue.
For superb backcountry skiing amidst forests of pine and aspen, head to the Sawtooth Mountains and its high mountain reaches laced with granite spires and inviting cirques. Here xc skiers can enjoy trekking and guide services, even overnight accommodations in backcountry huts and Mongolian-style yurts. For nostalgia buffs, the movie “Sun Valley Serenade” with John Payne, Sonja Henie and the Glen Miller Orchestra runs continuously on closed circuit viewings at the Sun Valley Lodge.
The Methow Valley in northwest Washington on the eastern slope of the North Cascade Mountains is one of the best kept secrets among xc skiers. A network of 200 kilometers of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing combines with lodges and warming huts along the trails, which are surrounded by more than a million acres of national wilderness and forest lands.
Snowfall here is not only plentiful, it is also dry thanks to the moisture traveling across 100 miles of mountains from the Pacific Ocean to get to Methow. And after the snow arrives, a crystal blue sky almost always follows revealing the incredible scenic mountain panoramas. Located only 2,000 feet above sea level, this 40-mile-long xc skiing valley requires no altitude acclimation. The valley centerpiece is Winthrop, Wash., a charming town with wooden sidewalks and old western-style storefronts containing numerous galleries and shops with names such as the Last Trading Post, Trail's End Bookstore, Grubstake & Company and 3 Fingered Jack's Saloon.
Many other North American regions could make the list of xc skiing Meccas, including California’s Lake Tahoe, Colorado, Lake Placid in New York, and Canada's Quebec and British Columbia areas. Start your own list of “must visit” xc ski destinations, and use XCSkiResorts.com to explore the many choices and then make some reservations for your next winter adventure.
There have been studies done about exercise intervention for clinical populations diagnosed with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even post traumatic stress disorder. This research shows that there are beneficial effects that produce a statistically relevant and significant reduction in these mental maladies. The following few paragraphs provide info from some articles that covered the topic of using exercise as a good strategy for therapists to employ.
In the 4th century, Plato reportedly quipped, “For man to succeed in life he has been provided with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” The CDC cites health benefits associated with a range of physical activity and in its absence there can be an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, etc. Physical inactivity may also be associated with the development of mental disorders such as those listed above.
There is evidence for the effectiveness of exercise training in patients with panic disorder impacted by a number of psychological factors such as increased self efficacy, a sense of mastery, distraction, and changes of self-concept. Can or will psychologists prescribe such an exercise intervention as part of therapy for their patients? It would seem to integrate perfectly with cognitive behavioral therapy strategies such as situational analysis, self monitoring, homework activities, and supportive follow-up to help compliance.
Physical fitness will also improve self-esteem and as patients feel better about themselves they’ll develop a more optimistic and energetic frame of mind. There is also an association between aerobic exercise and increased alertness. The exercise improves circulation and increases the availability of oxygen to the brain while it also causes the body to produce chemicals such as adrenaline to promote mental alertness. Fitness can instill a sense of pride and confidence and allow the mind a pathway to escape from everyday stress. Biologically speaking, exercise is said to cause the brain to release beta endorphins, which are essential in relieving pain and create a sort of euphoric or light happy feeling. This overall mood enhancement can be prescribed to help treat depression and anxiety. Regular exercise will also invoke focus, determination, and discipline, which are mentally strengthening.
Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are the top forms of aerobic recreational activities. And aerobic activities have been found to promote mental health, boost energy, improve sleep, relieve tension and stress, and combat anxiety and depression. There is a real proven link between physical fitness and mental health and well-being. We should get moving on this!
How do we encourage more psychologists to enroll their patients in outdoor fitness endeavors as part of therapy? There will be benefits from such strategies at a wide range of levels from getting someone out on rental snowshoes for 3 short weekly hikes to training for a 50 km skiathon.
A strategy to bring together xc skiing or snowshoeing and professional therapists can be developed. The skier can create a prescription for a routine for skiing or snowshoeing a number of kilometers a few times per week and the therapist can schedule sessions or maybe even hold the sessions on the trails. What would that be worth an hour including trail passes? Maybe xc ski areas can sell transferable season passes to therapists in a package? Maybe health insurance could cover the cost of and encourage such a winning strategy.
XC (cross country) skiers hate when snowshoers step on and mess up their groomed ski tracks and they both hate snowmobilers; while snowmobilers don’t want xc skiers and snowshoers using the trails that were paid for with snowmobile registration fees...and they all are freaked out about getting tangled up with sled dog teams! All winter trail users have the right to enjoy their chosen outdoor recreational experiences and their commonality is that they do not want their rights restricted in any way. In the winter, trail encounters between snowmobilers and other trail users must be expected. When these encounters inevitably occur, people should respect each other’s love of the outdoors and be considerate. That’s not a rule, an enforceable law, or a line in a list of codified responsibility dogma. It is the way to live.
While the vast majority of encounters between different winter trail users on the snow such as mushers (dog sledders), snowshoers, snowmobilers and xc (cross-country) skiers are friendly and respectful, there are some conflicts that occur and some resentment that does exist. Additionally, unsafe situations such as collisions, reckless behavior or poor judgment can occur. These situations can be compounded by damaged trail surfaces, narrow passageways, conflicted trail uses or trail congestion.
Other factors that may contribute to a problem on shared trails include trail user speed, mass of user or vehicle, sight distances, size of the group, users overtaking one another silently or without warning, user skill and experience and user expectations and preparedness. Add to that people’s different values and priorities and their tolerance for others’ lifestyle choices and it’s no wonder that you have a recipe for possible conflict.
In the Other Person’s Shoes
The most obvious way to prevent conflicts on the trails and promote safety for those who share the trails is to learn and understand each other’s perspectives. For example, many xc skiers and snowshoers are not aware that snowmobilers must pay a state registration fee, which is allocated to trail grooming. Snowmobilers have worked hard to secure landowners’ permission to develop and use their networks of trails. If xc skiers do not want to mix with other trail users they have the option of skiing at “skier-only” commercial ski centers that groom specifically for skiing, where snowmobilers are not allowed. And there are state and national park areas that restrict snowmobiling, too.
But snowmobilers may not realize deep-rooted resentments that many xc skiers have for the motorized trail users. Some skiers and snowshoers regard their solitude in nature as holy. They may feel that mechanized trail use is inappropriate and are angered by the inefficient two-cycle engine noise and exhaust. Snowshoers and xc skiers lifestyle perspectives may prevent them from ever being aware of the sheer joy a youngster experiences when (s) he rides a snowmobile for the first time. Certainly, there is enough room and plenty of miles of trails so that all trail users can be satisfied. And perhaps there are areas with separate trails that are primarily allocated to specific uses.
Snowmobilers and other trails users can facilitate mutual understanding through the process of communicating and collaborating. The Lyme-Pinnacle Snowmobile Club in the western central part of New Hampshire has discovered some success in sharing the trails. While it is unusual, the club membership is comprised of one-third xc skiers. They regularly share the trails and they pitch in and help maintain the trails in the off-season, too. And there is more than one report of a lost xc skier or snowshoer, who was glad to see a snowmobiler, who provided safe transport back to the trailhead. Perhaps it’s time trail users get into each other’s shoes and try each other’s activity. Work on joint projects such as trail maintenance, repairing a warming hut, deciding where routes are successful and where they are problematic.
What to Do at a Rendezvous?
The NH Fish & Game OHRV Operation and License Statute states: Any person operating an OHRV shall yield the right-of-way to any person on horseback, foot, ski, snowshoes or other mode of travel on foot; provided however, that such persons traveling do not unreasonably obstruct or delay OHRVs on the trail. The law also states that the maximum speed limit unless otherwise posted is 45 miles per hour.
There may be a code, trail etiquette, or laws of the land for snowmobilers and other trail users when they come upon each other, but what really matters is that people just use common sense. For example, obviously snowmobilers should be prepared for anything when approaching a blind curve, which suggests slowing down, being aware and keeping the sled under control.
Upon hearing the approach of a snowmobile, xc skiers or snowshoers should get off the trail in a place where they can be easily seen. They should give the snowmobiler room to pass, and be more wary if there are many people in either party. Skiers and snowshoers should also keep control of ski poles to avoid the sled as it goes by. Traditional yield rules and signage ask the machine operator to yield, but it is just much easier for the trail user on foot (or ski) to step off the trail.
XC skiers that use snowmobile trails often employ the skating method of skiing. This technique crosses the trail in a perpendicular fashion, substantially more than the traditional diagonal ski technique. The skater splays each sliding ski outward at an angle to glide longer and faster. This is usually a more encompassing exercise and snowmobilers should be aware that skating skiers might not be able to hear an oncoming machine very well. Their level of exercise and the sound of wind and sliding skis on crunchy snow can impair hearing somewhat. That is one good reason that snowmobilers, who may have newer quieter machines should not assume that other trail users will always hear them coming.
Mushers (dog sledders) recommend that as they approach head on, other trail users should get to the side or off the trail and let the sled dogs pass by. It’s best to try and communicate about each other’s intentions. Keep in mind that the sled dogs will try to keep to the inside of the trail on a curve to find the shortest path, so you should not automatically think that pulling off to the right is always the best option.
Interestingly, horseback riders suggest that other trail users talk it up when they come face-to-face. It is important that the horse understand that you are a person and not some robot contraption. Luckily, seeing equestrian enthusiasts on the winter trails is a rare occurrence.
People familiar with the trail sharing issue will often refer to the fact that there are very few problems on the trails. A common phrase is that problems occur with “less than one percent” of trail users. There is also concern about young people and others, who might act recklessly or are using snowmobiles for the first time. Skiers, who ski on the snowmobile trails but are not aware of the issues discussed in this article, are of particular concern, too. We must try to reach all of these “one-percenters” to prevent tragic consequences and keep the trails safe for all to use.
Backcountry access is now a service at more cross country ski resorts (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/resort-features.php#Anchor-6262) and whether you refer to it as backcountry, out-of-bounds skiing, sidecountry, or off-piste skiing, such terrain accessed by skiers and snowshoers equipped with a sense of adventure, the latest powder gear, and exuberance to descend a mountain side in deep powder is intoxicating. But xc skiers can end up in dire circumstances, completely alone and on their own in trouble.
Some xc skiers have an insatiable appetite for untracked powder, which can override educated decisions when determining the acceptable risks. How to combat the possibility of catastrophe when accessing the backcountry within or outside the ski resort’s terrain, requires arming yourself with knowledge and the basis for sound decision making. The factors involved in off trail mishaps also often include human behavior and Mother Nature.
As more skiers and snowshoers access the off-trail terrain other issues such as increased use may impact safety. If a slope has been trafficked by dozens or hundreds of other backcountry users, it does not always mean that it is safe. Snowpack stability, route selection, and potential terrain hazards are all significant in the decision making for safety. While some ski area managers try to minimize the risk to off-trail users (such as “cleaning” gladed terrain areas), there are realities that include the skier’s individual choice and self reliance. Of course, there is a much better chance that help is nearby if a skier is in trouble within the ski area boundaries, but it still may take a while before help arrives.
It is important to for skiers and snowshoers to be educated and prepared and be able to assess the risks of backcountry activity even within the ski area boundaries. In these litigious times, there may not be ready-made pamphlets to promote safety in the backcountry because few writers and publishers want to be liable. But one example is, the Falcon Guide entitled “Cross-Country Skiing,” (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/equipment.php#Anchor-1010), which has sections on Route Finding, Winter Hazards, and First Aid that provides useful info.
These are just some of the issues to be considered as more people ski or snowshoe off trails and more issues will arise as more ski areas open access to ungroomed terrain.
It has been said that cross country skiing is one of the most romantic forms of recreation. The XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 features favorite romantic xc ski resorts across North America (in alphabetical order).
Callaghan Country, Whistler, BC – Secluded lodge where couples are transported to the site situated in 8,000 acres of wilderness with 36 feet of guaranteed snow without high altitude problems.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Lake Louise, AB – The Chateau is a grand old resort with all the trimmings and places for romantics to enjoy each other and an outstanding rear window panorama of the Victoria Glacier.
Galena Lodge, Ketchum, ID – The Honeymoon Yurt is a love nest that is only 20 minutes out on the trail but couples can enjoy the backcountry accommodations in comfort themselves and get dinner delivered and maybe even a massage for two.
Garland Resort, Lewiston, MI – This Triple A Four-Diamond resort with a main facility constructed of logs is known for its rustic elegance, a great restaurant menu and various accommodations.
Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, MT – Near Yellowstone National Park, the ranch has cozy cabins, a lodge with great cuisine, massage services and a staff that treats all of its guests warmly.
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY – A Victorian castle within an hour of NYC with free use of xc skis, snowshoes or ice skates. Climb the Sky Top Tower for a 360 degree vista. The spa has instruction for couples massage.
Mountain Top Inn, Chittenden,VT – This resort is buried in the Green Mountains, where you can sit fireside in the restaurant with a wonderful menu or in the pub with live entertainment. Sled on the hill behind the inn or enjoy extensive trail network.
Sun Mountain Lodge, Winthrop, WA – There is a 360 degree view of tranquility with guest rooms and lakeside cabins, extensive wine cellar and spa services.
Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs, CO – Guests are limited to 30 so the staff can insure personalized attention. Couples can share a guide into the backcountry and special cuisine at this secluded retreat in the Steamboat area.
A recent visit to Bolton Valley Nordic Center in Vermont afforded me an up close look at the newest sensation in cross country skiing – backcountry access at a commercial xc ski area. Bolton boasts having 62 km of high elevation backcountry ski trails including steep winding trails through birch glades, mellow trails for touring, and plenty of powder turns on the way back down.
In mid-February while much of New England was wondering when winter would begin, Bolton Valley Nordic Center with its base elevation of 2,100 feet has fresh snow and a reliable, plentiful base. The facility has 26 km of groomed trails, too. The rental equipment includes backcountry gear for either xc skiing or snowshoeing. The famous Catamount Trail is amidst Bolton’s trail system and there seems to be no limit to interest in this market segment. In fact, the grand daddy of xc ski areas, Trapp Family Lodge now offers 2,500 acres and 40 km of trails in the backcountry, too.
At Bolton Valley Nordic Center's eastern side, the Bryant Ski Trail takes skiers uphill on an hour trek to the Bryant Camp Backcountry Cabin (2,690 foot elevation). Not much to the building but it is a destination that opens into various trails further up the terrain. By the time I arrived in the late morning the trails were packed by previous skiers. I had a few chats with other skiers, who donned gear ranging from lightweight xc skis to heavy telemark gear with climbing skins, wide waxless skis with BC boot/bindings, and I even dodged a snowboarder careening down the packed trail on a split decision snowboard.
I had a conversation with a couple of skiers, who admitted to taking the Wilderness Lift at the adjacent Bolton Valley alpine ski area to ski from the Peggy Dow’s Trail to the Nordic area’s backcountry terrain and the Heavenly Highway Trail where I met them. I skied further up the Highway and then turned on to an aptly named trail called Devil’s Drop, which was really a downhill powder run with switchbacks.
Clearly, you want to ski these trails on a day with good soft snow conditions. The trails are well marked and with skiers dropping down into untracked lines through the trees the upper trails can be a bit confusing. It appeared that after skiing around a few times it would be more comforting as one becomes familiar with the upper trails. There is an overlook named Stowe View and another trail where you can reach a destination named Olga’s Falls. The Bolton-Trapp Trail uses the Catamount Trail (Vermont’s lengthwise winter trail) between the Bolton Valley Nordic Center and Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe and this reaches the highest point on the Catamount Trail at 3,310 foot elevation.
The west side of the Bolton trails covers another entire area to ski and looking at the map contours it is appealing for some downhill fun. The backcountry area also has some delineated glade areas on the trail map and one would imagine that there could be much more of these cleaned areas to give skiers more to enjoy.
Trapp Family Lodge offers guided tours in the backcountry for $35 hour and there is a 3-day package with rental equipment, skill lessons, and a full day tour for $250. Bolton has backcountry rental gear for $30.
Uphill Transport for Skiing the Glades
About a decade ago, alpine ski resorts came to the realization that gladed areas (skiing in the trees rather than on the groomed slopes) between trails offers great fun to skiers. They have created safe glades on gentle terrain by eliminating underbrush, smaller trees, and rocks so there is more room for skiers to pick their way through the forest (somewhat) safely. Glade areas for advanced skiers offer steeper terrain and more obstacles.
Call me a heretic, but I feel that the time has come for xc ski area operators to accept that there are many skiers who would like to access these backcountry stashes without having to climb and get so tired. Clearly there is a portion of the skiing population who would pay for transport up to higher elevations to access these areas so they can enjoy the downhill runs. For a few extra dollars above the trail pass, such transport could be provided with an industrial snowmobile (which most resorts already use) pulling an attached trailer with seats. And maybe the snowmobile driver can stop at the top to take some photos of the skiers as they take off down the terrain. Skiers can purchase the photo documentation back at the lodge and get the photos emailed to their computer or phone so they can show their weekend adventure to coworkers on Monday morning at work.
I imagine that xc ski resort operators might feel that such a service is the domain of alpine ski resorts...but xc ski areas could offer a more natural service within the context of xc skiing and snowshoeing. People like high places and the product supplier companies have recently produced a proliferation of off-track and backcountry equipment. This type of xc ski resort service has arrived.
On a preseason visit to Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY, I was given a true taste of Finland. This is cross country skiing Finnish style from the resort owner, Olavi Hirvonen to the authentic woodburning sauna and the two resident reindeer on site.
Olavi and Ann Hirvonen have operated Lapland Lake for more than 30 years and visitors’ testimonials speak to their friendly, caring, and personal customer service that is Lapland Lake. Actually, the resort is tucked away in the town of Benson situated 60 miles northwest of Albany in the 6-million acre Adirondack Forest Reserve.
In February 2010, Olavi celebrated the 50th anniversary as a member of the 1960 US Olympic Team in Squaw Valley. He participated in two events and in the 50-kilometer distance he finished second among the US skiers. His performance was marred by a broken ski, which compelled him to proceed 1.5 miles on a single ski before he was able to obtain a replacement. Olavi applies that compulsiveness to overseeing the trail grooming and after winter storms he has the Lapland staff clearing twigs and branches off of the trails. Olavi works in the rental and repair shop, certainly a labor of love for the octogenarian, while Ann focuses on most of everything else.
The kids line up to spin on a sled upon the frozen pond, where a Finish experience called Napa Kiikku has the kids on a sled that is attached to a pole protruding through the ice. The “Ski-like-a-Finn” lesson package helps first timers to get the hang of xc skiing with rental gear, a trail pass, and a lesson. And from the looks of it, the trails are mostly on comfortable level terrain so that skiers need not climb too much or worry about out-of-control downhill experiences. There are a total of about 50 kilometers of trails with nearly 40 km that are groomed, 2.5 km lighted for night skiing and some panoramic views of nearby Woods Lake.
I sampled a small comfortable cottage called a “tupa” for overnight lodging and walked through the Lapin Tupa, which is a bigger dwelling that can be rented as private rooms by couples/individuals or shared by a larger group. The tupa where I stayed had electric heat, two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a small family room, and a woodstove. And when the snow is abundant, skiing from the front door and around the property will have you shouting tervetuloa (greetings) to others.
The Finnish Line Lodge is Lapland Lake’s main facility in a two-story building that literally rose from the ashes as it burned to the ground years ago, was rebuilt and now houses the retail store, rentals, fireside lounge area, and upstairs at the Kuuma Tupa snack bar for soup, chili, or a beverage. The Tuulen Tupa Grill is a dining room that has lunch and a catered dinner menu and it is slated for redecoration by the Hirvonen’s daughter, who is studying interior design and will undertake the project during her college break.
Lapland Lake welcomes people to cross country ski and snowshoe from kids and seniors, to ladies and teachers in weekly group programs that are scheduled. It has received the 2011 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor among other recognition awards in the past. Ann Hirvonen stopped during our tour of the area and revealed that this was the spot she liked to stand at night to look at the twinkling lights of the tupas in the winter - knowing that people are enjoying it makes running Lapland Lake all worth it to her. You’ll say tavataan ladulla or “see you on the trails.”
Trapp Family Lodge steeped in tradition in Stowe, VT has been added to the ever increasing list of cross country (xc) ski resort snowmakers. That’s right, they’re making machine-made snow at Trapp Family Lodge. In fact, a list of xc ski area operators have dabbled in snowmaking over the years is now at about 30 xc ski areas. The list includes Breckenridge Nordic Center and Frisco Nordic Center in CO; Mountain Top Resort, and Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Trapp Family Lodge, and Rikert Nordic Center in VT; Bretton Woods, the Nordic Center at Waterville Valley, and Great Glen Trails in NH, Pineland Farms and Quarry Road Rec Area in ME; Weston Ski Track in MA; Royal Gorge in CA; and Soldier Hollow in UT.
Why did Trapp Family decide to invest in a snowmaking operation? The availability of less expensive and portable snowmaking systems are main motivations, but other business-driven issues are relevant too such as filling lodge rooms and fulfilling season pass holders’ desire to extend the ski season beyond Mother Nature’s whim.
Twenty years ago, one industry consultant dubbed the xc ski resort quandary as “precipitation roulette,” and some business-oriented reasons to install snowmaking include operational security to guarantee skiing programs, and staffing; competitive advantage against other xc ski resorts that do not have machine-made snow’ and guaranteeing snow cover on important holiday periods (which can represent more than 30 percent of annual winter business).
The necessary elements of a snowmaking operation include cold temperatures, water, high pressure, power, and system components such as piping, pumps, compressors, and snow guns. The power requires both manpower and energy supplied by electricity or fuel. There are many industry horror stories about the night hours and difficulty of the work associated with snowmaking for xc skiing. Getting the snow to efficiently cover a narrow corridor trail is also a challenge. Many operations simply cover a field and then move the snow to the trails.
Pineland Farms in Gloucester, ME is making snow this year because it wanted to ensure its ability to host local school and club race programs and a one kilometer loop has been created with the intention to cover a 5 km loop. Soldier Hollow in UT made snow to cover 2.2 km of trails and 4-6 lanes on the tubing hill while snowmakers used machines to make snow on 2 km of trails at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in VT. Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT installed the largest snowmaking of its type in North America on 5 km of homologated trails where the 2013 NCAA competitions were held and Quarry Road Rec Area in Waterville, ME has one of the most powerful systems piping 500 gallons of water per minute.
But the most significant issue has always been the investment required for many xc ski businesses that are small and seasonal. It is now at a point where operators at Mountain Top Resort in Chittenden, VT decided that snowmaking was a higher priority than selling retail products at the xc ski center. Snowmaking supports so many aspects of the business from rental operations and ski lessons to dog sledding and snowshoeing, In terms of the guest perspective, winter guests expect to book travel to a destination and get the experience that was desired...and that includes snow! Who knows, perhaps there will be a day sometime soon when snowmaking will be a basic aspect of xc skiing at commercial resorts.
Ski for Light, Inc. is an organization founded in 1975 to teach blind, visually- and mobility-impaired adults how to xc ski, in an atmosphere that encourages participants to recognize that they can usually accomplish much more, both on the snow and back home in everyday life.
Each year Ski for Light, Inc. conducts a week-long event where blind and mobility-impaired adults are taught the basics of cross country skiing. The SFL week at Snow Mountain Ranch in CO attracted 289 people and 68 first-timers including participants and guides. The location of the event changes from year to year in an effort to spread the Ski for Light philosophy and idea to as many parts of the country as possible.
During the Ski for Light week each disabled skier is paired for the entire week with an experienced, sighted, cross-country skier who acts as ski instructor and guide. The disabled person skis in tracks or grooves in the snow, while the guide skis along side. The guide offers instructional tips and suggestions, support and encouragement, and describes the countryside.
The blind and mobility-impaired adults, who attend the Ski for Light week, come from all over the U.S. and from several foreign countries. Many of them come to Ski for Light with a desire to become more physically active and fit, and to find recreational opportunities that are lacking at home. Most of the SFL skiers discover, in the process of learning how to xc ski, that they can accomplish much more than others have told them, and much more than they themselves believed. They leave Ski for Light with a sense of accomplishment and motivation that carries over to every aspect of their lives back home.
The volunteer guides, who attend Ski for Light, are a very special group of people. They pay the same event fees as disabled skiers so that they can share a favorite activity with someone who would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate. Most of these guides discover that in the process of giving of themselves they are getting as much or more back in return. Many of them return to each event, year after year.
The organization is always seeking new guides and participants (visually impaired or mobility impaired) and word-of-mouth is how most first-time attendees are attracted to the program. Please help spread the word to anyone, who might be interested. Information about the event and application forms for the next event and at regional events around the country are available at www.sfl.org. Those interested in attending or volunteering for SFL may also call (612) 827-3232 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Squaw Valley Winter Olympics held in 1960 led the way to many technological advances that shaped today’s operation and broadcasting of the Winter Olympics. The Nordic event venues built in Tahoma, CA are now covered with dense new growth as all of the structures, which were temporary, have been removed. The land located on Route 89 about 10 miles south of Tahoe City on the west side of Lake Tahoe is now the Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park.
The Nordic venues and practice areas for the men’s 50 km, 30 km, combined, and relay races were held in the General Creek and McKinney Creek areas, which were privately owned when the Squaw Valley Olympics was in the planning stages. These games were also the first time that the biathlon and women’s 10 km were included at the Olympics. The 57 km of trails were developed in 1958 and completed in 1959 for a test run championship.
The 1960 Winter Olympics were the first time the winter competitions were ever nationally broadcast on TV. This was also the first time that sno-cat grooming vehicles were used to mechanically groom the race courses. Tucker Sno-cat machines towed agricultural choppers and tines to “tenderize” the snow conditions. They had yet to think of track setters in today’s terms, so skiers set the tracks by skiing behind the grooming machines. The downhill sections were raked by hand.
Another first was the use of electrical and manual timing. To keep spectators abreast of the competition, interval times of the racers were taken along the trail and were phoned to the stadium area where they were announced to the spectators and posted on the scoreboard.
Since there are few remnants from the Nordic events remaining, there is now an effort to reinvigorate these “forgotten Olympics” in a partnership with the state park to reestablish the trail network, construct interpretive panels and trail markers, and develop a museum of historical artifacts. Currently there is an Olympic exhibit at the Reno Airport and there is some signage at Sugar Park Point State Park. For more information there is a book by David Antonucci entitled “Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games,” which is filled with information and photos.
The Ski for Heat program in Vermont is planning to grow exponentially this winter after 13 years of operation. Combining with the Vermont Ski Areas Association, the Ski for Heat program, which is scheduled for January 26, 2014 will reach out to more XC ski areas as participating sites and include alpine ski resorts in the program for the first time. Vermont is known for long, cold, and snowy winters and the Ski for Heat program is a FUNdraiser to warm hearts and homes benefitting the Warmth program with local community action councils to help low-income families with heating fuel assistance.
As a sign of the economic times, "the number of people seeking help is increasing exponentially," said Central Vermont Community Action Council (CVCAC) staff person Sarah Phillips. Money is raised by participants, who alpine or cross country ski or snowshoe in the program. They solicit "per kilometer" pledges or direct donations from family, friends, businesses, and organizations. Alpine skiers will pledge for the vertical feet that they ski in a day and they'll be able to use smart phones to participate and get pledges.
The Ski for Heat program has been operating in southern Vermont at Wild Wings Ski Touring Center in Peru, Vermont for 13 years where it has raised about $250,000 for fuel assistance. While this program is a typical pledge-style fundraiser, helping low income families stay warm in the winter is central to the issue of energy equity in an economy that is squeezing those who must choose between food, heat, and other essentials. Skiing participants can feel that they are supporting their neighbors-in-need by their efforts as the money comes from within the local region to support local people. Program founder, Martha Robertson says, "We make the program as easy as possible to participate. There's no registration fee and no specific minimum requirements of donations or time. Program donations come from local businesses, families, and individuals. For many businesses, it is just good will."
The Ski for Heat program has been sponsored by local businesses and it is now seeking more widespread support. Skiers or snowshoers come and go as their schedules allow. They keep track of the kilometers that they ski or snowshoe or the vertical feet. In 2009, Robertson's program not only received the Governor's Award for Outstanding Community Service, but former Vermont Governor Douglas and his wife visited Wild Wings to participate on snowshoes.
Chuck and Tracy Black of Wild Wings generously donated the use of the trails to Ski for Heat, which means there was no charge for program participants to ski. Rental equipment was discounted for participants, too. The Community Action Councils helped with the program on a regional basis to direct funds to people that need it.
There's no need to be a "hot" skier to participate in the Ski for Heat program. Why not help some neighbors keep warm this winter? For more info check with the xc ski areas or www.skiforheat.org
Want a guilt-free way to indulge yourself with food while exercising? XC Skiing is one of the best forms of aerobic exercise but if you go on a "Gourmet Ski Tour" on your xc skis or snowshoes, you may very well eat your way to fitness at a number of trailside food stops. What a grand time so go ahead, eat, ski, and be merry - appetizers, wine, champagne, fondue, entrees, desserts, and more.
Here's a cross section of the culinary xc ski events that are planned this winter across the country with a varied menu of fun and fine cuisine.
Smugglers Notch in VT has Sweets and Snowshoes every Wednesday night 7-9 PM for adults only. Hot cocoa, coffee, and 3 desserts await snowshoers after a 30 minute trek to a pavilion and campfire. A warming meal of hot soup, bread and beverage at a trailside cabin is a destination for the Soup and Snowshoes guided trek mid-day on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and on Tuesday nights there's a Snowshoe Adventure Dinner at the mountain summit.
Eastman Cross Country's Nordic Nibbles in Grantham, NH on January 19 has a Scandinavian theme with a visit to a fire pit at each stop for cheese from a local smokehouse, Lindt chocolate, gingerbread cake and pastries, local dairy milk for hot coco, soup, and the main meal from 11 AM - 1 PM.
The Sweetheart's Chocolate Tour at Bretton Woods Nordic on February 15 with a self-guided tour to stops for sweets from 10 AM – 4 PM. And enjoy the Sweetheart's Ski or Snowshoe Tour by candlelight at 7-8 PM that evening.
The Chocolate Festival at Mt. Washington Valley Ski & Snowshoe Center in Intervale, NH on February 23 is an inn-to-inn affair at 10-12 stops to experience your chocolate fantasies including moose and fondue. Go on a tour of any length and actually gain calories, even if you ski as far as 20 kilometers. A shuttle is also available for those that have overindulged at the event dubbed the "Sweetest Day on the Trails."
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Ironwood features cuisine from local restaurants that can be purchased at a nominal fee along a designated route along the trails at the Taste of the Trails on the ABR trails on March 1 at 11 AM - 2 PM.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO hosts the Grand Huts.org Progressive Dinner on Feb 15 with a multi-course meal at outposts along the trail in a fundraiser for the huts.
Just Desserts Eat & Ski in the Enchanted Forest in Red River, NM on February 22 features goodies from 20 different local restaurants at three trailside stations with up to 100 desserts within a 4 kilometer loop. Their motto is, “It’s not a race, just a gorge fest.”
Crested Butte Nordic Center has has a yurt reached by a 2 km ski or snowshoe tour where 10 gourmet dinners are offered during the winter including the Full Moon Dinners @ the Yurt and the Valentine’s Dinner.
Look to the Galena Lodge in Ketchum, ID for the Full Moon Dinners on nights associated with the full moon, whereby you can go ski or snowshoe (half price rental gear offered) and then return to lodge for a 4-course dinner at $40 or half price for kids under 12. There are also special Wine Dinners, Holiday Dinners, and a Valentine's Day Dinner.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT has the Glide & Gorge event on March 9 from 11:30 AM-2 PM with trail luncheon stationed with appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts from the Ranch's four-star kitchen, local brew, wine, music and shuttles. There's also a trailside one-stop buffet every Friday that can be reached on foot, snowshoes, or skis located so that one can either begin or finish their outing with the feast.
Cypress Mountain outside of Vancouver, BC has Chocolate Fondue Tours on Friday and Sunday nights starting at 6:30 PM and the Cheese & Chocolate Fondue Tour on Fridays and Sundays at 6 - 10 PM. Tours are organized by pre-registration. Ladies Only Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe Tour on Jan 10, 24, Feb 7, 28, and Mar 14 at 6:30 PM.
Is there a difference between cross country skiing at a commercial center and “in the woods?” Are people aware about the difference between designed trails at a commercial xc ski area compared to cross country skiing in a field, in a local park, or on a trail in the forest?
One of the greatest obstacles for xc skiing growth is the common notion of a lone xc skier going into a narrow dark trail as if the very isolation in the woods was the goal. Interestingly, some ski areas have marketed that isolationism, but there are a few things that focus on the average recreation enthusiasts’ experience that are offered on designed trails at a commercial xc ski resort.
Often trails that are built by loggers and the government parks’ people have long straight ascents and descents and they are boring. Most average skiers are very afraid of the speed of a long downhill. Instead, trail designers such as John Morton of Morton Trails recommend undulating and twisting trails that spark interest on every turn and also help slow down the speed. Destinations, scenic vistas, and accomplishment upon arrival make great sense on xc ski trails and these are characteristics of what well-designed trails should provide.
Most commercial xc ski resorts charge a fee between $15 and $29. For that fee the patron (hopefully) get a business operation and trails that:
Yes, admittedly many people can xc ski out their back door in the backyard, on a local golf course, or on a trail in a nearby forest and it is very convenient to do so. But commercial xc ski resorts offer a different skiing product. New Hampshire’s Jackson Ski Touring Center, emulated by hundreds of xc ski resorts across North America could be thought of as quintessential because it provides a perfect example of most of those services and amenities. The investment required to supply the list of services above is no small number (snowcat grooming machines and such), but Jackson has something more and it is called the “culture of xc skiing.” This is why Jackson can be considered one of the true meccas of xc skiing.
Of course, the major issue with noncommercial cross country ski trails is about snow conditions. The whim of the weather rules the snow and without trail grooming and trail maintenance, the snow can be to hard packed, icy, sticky, too deep for nonpowder skiers, or too inconsistent to offer a good experience.
The statistics have shown over many years that less than 20 percent of xc ski outings are at commercial resorts. Skiers that experience the other 80 percent of the xc skiing outings are missing out on the list of services above and many of them are not even aware that those services exist. It needs to be spelled out for them and an effort needs to be made to differentiate commercial ski area experience from backyard skiing.
Adventure Guides for a Great Winter Experience
These days, cross country skiing is easy on groomed trails due to improvements in ski equipment and regular trail grooming. But, the secret is that great winter ski experiences can be had as a guided adventure in the backcountry.
Perhaps the term backcountry skiing paints pictures of avalanches and extreme skiing movies. The fact is that this type of cross country skiing can mean anything from a quiet morning tromp through the woods, getting back in time for a bowl of hot soup in front of the fireplace, to a challenging all-day trip to the top of the world. You can maneuver your skis up hills and then swoosh back down...but if you don't want any hills, you can ski over frozen snow covered lakes, alongside rivers, or through meadows.
Guides can virtually hold you by the hand or offer a recommendation for a self-guided tour. They can suggest appropriate equipment and clothing to make it a more comfortable experience and they can offer ski instruction to a first timer. Expect an experienced guide to help intermediate skiers master higher skill levels or lead advanced skiers on more extreme expeditions reaching new heights.
Adventure guides can plan your trip to match your skill level and desired intensity. The value of a guide is that your comfort level is increased multifold. That is because the experienced guide knows about trail and terrain selection to fit the skier level; he or she knows technique tips to help successfully crossing terrain in different types of snow conditions, but most of all the guide will give you personal attention and help you to avoid backcountry calamity.
A resort vacation is great, but while you're there take half a day with a guide to ski off into the untouched powder where the snow is fresh and fluffy. The pace might be like a hiking trip - where you can hustle along if you're looking for a killer workout, or just take your time and enjoy the scenery. Most ski guides love to talk, too - so expect some gab about local historical, geological or interpretive to provide a more informative and interesting experience.
Another guided adventure option to try is dog sledding with a guide. It's the experience of the Alaskan Iditarod on the trails. Work with a team of dogs. In New Hampshire there's Muddy Paw Kennel Dog Sled and Whitewater Rafting and in Maine contact Mahoosuc Guide Service in the Bethel region. In Minnesota contact Wintergreen DogSled Lodge.
Guide services to backcountry adventures on XCSkiResorts.com include Vista Verde Ranch in CO; Jackson Fork Ranch in WY, Sun Valley Trekking in ID; High Peaks Adventures in NY; Bredeson Outdoor Adventures in CT and VT; International Mountain Climbing School in NH; and Swan Mountain Ranch in MT. Other guides services include Hilltop Adventures in MA; Randonnee Tours in Eastern/Central Canada; Northern Cascades Mountain Guides in WA; White Pine Touring in Utah; Alpine Skills in CA; and Yellowstone Expeditions in MT.
Since the time that wooden skis were found in a peat bog in Sweden dating to 2,000 BC, there have been many milestones that brought xc skiing to where it is today. Focusing on the USA, the forefathers of our recreation include people such as Snowshoe Thompson, who delivered the mail in the Sierra Mountains of California and JackRabbit Johannsen, who xc skied in northern New York.
The editors of XCSkiResorts.com using various sources considered the milestones and developed this list of the Milestones of Modern XC Skiing in the USA in order of significance:
Plan to gather up the kids and head to the hills during the school breaks next winter. No need to head to warmer climes - winter can be snowy, yet mild, and perfect for a family vacation with plenty of activities such as cross-country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing. According to the experts, who regularly update XCSkiResorts.com, the nation's top XC ski resorts are exceedingly family-friendly with lots to enjoy together both on the snow and off. What families want and need is exactly what an xc ski vacation delivers: multi-generational participation, quality time and shared memories.
There are special touches such as talent shows, child-friendly classes and family style meals to help your XC ski and snowshoe vacation become the perfect memorable getaway with your loved ones. Families can find resorts that offer the perfect combination of carefree atmosphere and picture-perfect views together with beautiful lodging, family dining, and expertly groomed trails and learn how they can enjoy the winter outdoors together. The following are top suggestions from the site:
Lapland Lake Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY has nightly bonfires on the weekends and the kids love to play Napa Kikku, which is a Finnish game on ice with a sled and a pole. Kicksleds, tubing, ice skating and parents use pulk sleds to pull the kids along the xc ski trails.
Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, ME has family programs to engage kids and adults with outdoors and educational activities such as XC skiing, mountain biking, equestrian, exploring life and animals on the farm, apple cider making, butter making, milking a cow, carving pumpkins, and much more.
Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT is one of the most famous family resorts where the hills come alive with the "Sound of Music." In the Green Mountains of Vermont, Trapp Family Lodge is a paradise for families with a fitness center, an indoor pool and the Mountain Kids Club provides playtime, craft time and movies for kids.
Smuggler's Notch Resort in Smuggler's Notch, VT has a dynamic lineup of family programs with 1,000 acres for alpine skiers and snowboarders, teen centers, kids camps and FunZone play area, resort village with shops and restaurants, condo lodging, and walk-to free shuttles. There's xc ski and snowshoe trails, winter walking, ice skating, and more. Recognition for family focus has been awarded by numerous magazines.
Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minnesota is run by a 3-generation extended family and this resort has families coming back year after year. They serve family style meals and host a talent/variety show, which is a big hit for families. The state’s largest hot tub, famous bottomless cookie jars, sledding, ice skating, and XC ski/snowshoe trails combine to make this one of the most popular family destinations.
As the name implies, Palmquist Farm in Brantwood, WI is an XC ski center on a farm that offers kid-friendly animals such as rabbits, horses, cats and dogs. There are tubes and sleds to use on sliding hills and ice skating pond, plus horse-drawn sleigh rides and kids rental ski equipment. They say that a visit to Palmquist's is like coming home to Grandma's house.
Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Steamboat Springs, CO has outdoor adventures from XC skiing and snowshoeing to Zipline, horseback riding and laser biathlon. There are "cowpoke camps" for overnight guests with kids in half and full day programs, heated pool, movie nights, game room, and more.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO is a destination for the whole family with the most affordable options for lodging which includes a Day Pass covering a weekend kids program with outdoor fun and indoor activities such as a pool, climbing wall, roller skating, craft shop, and more.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT has programs for outdoor youth adventures that include animal tracking, snowshoeing, tubing, snow kickball, obstacle Olympics, finger painting, scavenger hunts and ice cream socials. Parents will love the cuisine, massage and xc skiing on picturesque trails.
You'll be amazed by the giant trees in Sequoia National Park and Monument near the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge in Kings Canyon National Park, CA. There is a daylong program for children, which has a break for the family to join together during lunch. The kids build igloos, go tubing and XC skiing or snowshoeing on nature hikes to see and learn about animal tracks. At night there is a dance, karaoke and bingo.
For people interested in traveling to xc ski resorts this winter, here is info about making a destination selection from the editor of XCSkiResorts.com.
In general, xc skiers select their winter xc ski destination resorts using some rating system of how xc ski areas perform in eight categories of criteria including trail quality and grooming, scenery, food quality, staff friendliness and service, the ski lodge facility and family issues. There is a great range of xc ski areas in North America and in the eyes of xc skiers these characteristics delineate areas without concern to whether the area is an inn, a ranch, a day area, a destination resort, or a recreation park area. I've purposively avoided the issue of cost - whether you like to travel to distant resorts or only travel within your region, you will still compare the other criteria to select your destination resort.
The information below describes what a quality xc ski resort is all about in terms of services and amenities at some of the leading xc ski resorts in North America.
XC SKI TRAILS
Trail Quality relates to the skiers' comfort on the trails, even though those skiers might be at different skiing or experience levels. The trail signage should help skiers understand where they are on the area's trail network. And signs should help skiers know the direction that will help them return to their starting place. The trails should provide a skiing flow so there aren't too many long uphills or sharp turns at the bottom of steep downhills. One idea that is done at Lapland Lake in Northville, New York that makes trails seem less crowded is to have skiers go in the same direction (one-way). The result is that the trails never seem crowded. Jim Richards of Maplelag in Calloway, Minnesota said, "Feedback from the majority of our skiers let us know that they preferred double-tracked trails over single tracks. And we had overwhelmingly negative opinions about allowing dogs on the trails, too."
Some of the best xc ski areas are just blessed with great terrain for xc skiing. The location of Royal Gorge in Soda Springs, California is perfect for xc skiing as the area's land diversity offers flat, rolling and more challenging variety. And Royal Gorge's "Sierra maritime snow consolidates well and is great for the base on the trails, which means that skiers can count on excellent conditions when they ski there."
Trail grooming can make or break the ski conditions. Olavi Hirvonen of Lapland Lake states, "We groom every morning unless we have to wait for the snow to dry out or cool off - and I groom the way I like to ski the trails myself." Hirvonen gets the Lapland Lake staff out on the trails after windy periods to rake and pick up the debris from trees like fallen limbs and pinecones because "I don't want the skiers to have to ski over the debris as it appears on the trails from the Springtime melt."
One thing that most of the best xc ski areas share in common is that they acquire and use the latest trail grooming technology to give them a mechanical advantage. They do not skimp when it comes to using snowcats with their grooming attachments to break up ice or powderize the snow into the finest trail surfaces.
Without getting into the details of grooming machinery and techniques, the personal pride of the area operators is paramount to the trail quality issue. Brian Wadsworth of Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana was a world class cross country ski racer, who groomed trails for eight years at the Ranch. He was selected by the Soldiers Hollow Olympic venue to groom the 2002 Olympic Cross Country Ski competition trails. He knows grooming from a technical and a skier's perspective. He knows the "best line tracks." But when he comments, "My goal is to be able to hold a World Cup race here any day of the winter" it sums up his pride and commitment to the quality of the trails at Lone Mountain Ranch.
STAFF SERVICE AND FRIENDLINESS
You know it when an area's staff is a great one - they seem happy to see you. In most instances, areas that have veteran employees have them because it is a great place to work. Most of these great employees do not need "customer service" training. They already have the personal touch. At Lone Mountain Ranch the staff has become "the hallmark in the industry," according to Wadsworth because they are "encouraged to create life-long relationships with the guests." Most of the people that work at the best xc ski areas want to work there as a lifestyle choice. This is apparent with their attitudes with the guests and about working at one of the best xc ski areas.
The Richards family, who own and run the Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minnesota, treat their guests as part of their family. It may sound trite but their guests sincerely feel welcome and they state it unequivocally in testimonials. The staff often greets the guests by name. They Richards constantly ask their guests if there is anything that can be done and they drop everything to help their guests, be it in the lodge, on the trails, in the rental shop or at the dinner table. Richards feels, "One of us (the Richards family) is always around to help with our guests. It's fun to be talked to and pampered by the actual owners of the resort." Many testimonials from different areas claim the same thing with regard to their feelings about the service at the best resorts - they feel welcome, comfortable and "at home." And Maplelag avoids posting rules or signs saying "Don't do this or that."
XC ski lodges can be designed to provide space, convenience and efficient utilization, but there are also other factors that make a difference to skiers. Ann Hirvonen of Lapland Lake states, "Clean is huge to us. We are cozy and convenient, but facilities such as restrooms can get pretty yucky, so we keep them in good condition throughout the day." Lapland also takes into account brown baggers (bring their own lunch rather than purchase food at the area) by offering them a picnic area. And they have a public shower and changing area for skiers, who want to clean up before their drive home.
At Lone Mountain Ranch, part of their ambiance is the historic facilities. Of course they have also added new updated facilities such as a dining room and some cabins, but many guests go there to enjoy the rustic and original facilities. "It looks like what people expect Montana to look like and we continue to renovate with cozy features such as antique furniture and old fashioned quilts to retain our historical aspects," said Wadsworth.
The main lodge at Maplelag is the area's group meeting place, and it is a living folk art museum. Jim Richards has collected unusual items from around the world. He stated, "We work very hard cultivating this look to be a feast for the eyes." There are nooks and crannies where people can sit and relax, read a book, play games with the family, etc. The lodge also houses the main dining room, hot tub, sauna, massage rooms, rental shop, gift store and it is where the Saturday night talent show and dance takes place.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
Whether Nordic skiers bring a picnic lunch, stop at a trailside snack shack or relax with a first class dining experience, the best areas usually are known for their outstanding cuisine. Good food service is a result of the area's commitment, quality chefs with pedigree culinary backgrounds, wine selection, and so on. The Maplelag kitchen is run by Debbie, the chef who has been on the job on and off for 25 years. There is a window opening to the kitchen where guests can speak with Debbie and see the staff cooking the meals. They make everything from scratch using only natural and fresh ingredients. They call it homestyle, hearty, and wholesome and it is a unique menu that is endorsed by the guests. Richards' summarized, "Food is a real joy at Maplelag.
QUALITY FAMILY TIME
Some xc ski areas are highly touted for their commitment to families. They cater to family needs by "dealing with the kids." Ann Hirvonen of Lapland Lake says, "We are a family and we raised our daughter here and when you raise a family at a ski center, you focus on families. So our trails have plenty of flat terrain for kids and we offer pulks (sleds that skiers use to carry small children), children's sized snowshoes, skis, boots, and ice skates." XC skiing offers families an activity that they can all do together. And that can include a four-year old on Snoopy skis skiing right alongside of grandpa skiing on his pine tarred woody originals.
Child-oriented instructors are a key element for families. For the kids to have a positive attitude about Nordic skiing they must have positive first experiences. It is suggested that the most successful lessons do not intermingle children with their parents in the same classes. Kids get comfortable with child-friendly instructors as individuals and on subsequent visits the kids commonly request to take additional lessons so they can spend more time with those friendly instructors.
Another important way to cater to families is to offer a variety of other skiing and non-skiing activities. At Lapland Lake a game played in Finland called Napa Kiikku is organized on weekends and holidays. The game involves a pole on ice with a sled that goes around in a circle. Adult lessons are conducted to correlate to the time that the kids play the game.
Kids love a campfire by the lake, sleigh rides, or just playing on a big pile of snow. Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont conducts many kids "classes" from swimming to puppet classes or making stuffed animals. The kids' classes provide parents with some child-free time for going on harder ski trails or getting a massage while the kids are being entertained.
Jay Richards (Jim and Mary Richards' son) of Maplelag commented, "Seeing our large family with our own kids running around, being involved makes families feel welcome here. We try to make parents feel at ease about having their kids run around." Maplelag cabins and cabooses are great accommodations that can fit large families and the Richards try to help families focus on being together doing family activities. Serving meals "family style" is a key element to the atmosphere. But so are the other family activities such as the dance and the talent show. Baby sitting services are available on site, too. Jay feels that one of the biggest reasons families visit is that there are many families already at Maplelag every time people visit and that makes families feel welcome.
Of course, there are other criteria for selecting winter destinations - for example, couples that are looking for a romantic weekend will have different needs (and desires). There is something more memorable about traveling to a destination compared to going to the local trail network for a couple of hours to xc ski or snowshoe. Whatever your interests, there is a perfect xc ski resort for you.